Studying Your Child

I need a hug

It had been a rough couple weeks.  I had a just-turned-4-year-old son throwing tantrum after tantrum, complete with throwing and grabbing and . . . ugh, it was just bad.  I don’t want to revisit it, really.  But lately?  So much better.  There will never be a perfect day when every child behaves every single moment (heck, I can’t even do that).  But we’ve been having some time to actually breathe and oh my does that feel delightful.

Here’s the thing: this whole process has been such a great reminder that I have to study my kids and act accordingly.  So, for my son, I know that he’s more of an introvert and he really loves and needs physical affection.  But in the moments of frustration when my son is acting out, I don’t often think of how they’re wired.  I forget what I learned about him from studying him.  And I quickly (or sometimes not so quickly) realize that I will not break the cycle until I communicate in a way that my child will receive what I’m saying and also meet his needs (not his wants–that’s a totally different thing altogether).

What does this practically look like?  Well the other day, my son was in the beginning of a meltdown.  He was under his bed and I was on the floor, at his level.  I tried to remain calm and let him talk (he hates to be interrupted and responds poorly to me raising my voice).  He then yelled, “I JUST WANT TO GIVE YOU A HUG!”  So I said, “Well then come give me a hug you goof!”  And he sat on my lap and immediately calmed down.

Another day that week, he started a tantrum over the iPad.  This doesn’t usually happen because I set time limits on the microwave and the kids know when their time is up.  But  I had a timer set so it would shut off after 30 minutes because this particular app has that.  I warned him it would happen.  But of course when it shut off, he was in the middle of something and then flipped out.  I expected it since this was a new thing I was trying so I was prepared to be calm and respond as lovingly as possible.  I also know that he is wired in a way that he HAS to finish what he’s doing before he can move on (his sister isn’t so much that way).  He threw his cup across the room and started to yell.  I very calmly and softly said, “We do not throw things.  You may go to your room and scream into your pillow and even hit it.  But you will not hurt me.  I will not let you hurt me.”  And then I thought about how much he needs physical touch and I followed it up with, “You can hug me.  But you cannot hurt me.”  And after a couple seconds, he came over to me and hugged me and calmed down.

Would I love it if he wouldn’t even start the tantrum in the first place?  Sure.  But this is major progress.  He’s a highly emotional little guy and doesn’t always think in the moment (nor do I and I’m almost 30 at the time of this posting).  So I’m all about praising the steps he’s taking and how he had the self-control to stop himself in the middle of a tantrum and make a better choice.

It’s not about perfection; it’s about progress.

“You can hug me but you may not hurt me” has become a mantra in our house.  It has been a lifesaver.  He is starting to communicate to me that he needs a hug sometimes before getting to the point where he has an outburst and other times it’s right after he starts and he is able to stop himself before it gets out of hand.  It’s tough as a mom because I need to remember to prompt him in that way, rather than just get frustrated and respond in a way that isn’t so helpful.  I don’t always succeed.  But again, we’re making progress and that’s what it’s about.

So the next time your kid is acting in an undesirable way, whether it’s as severe as what I saw in my kid with aggression or simply just a child who is out of sorts and seems a bit off, no matter the age of the child, maybe think about how they’re wired.  Study your child.  Look for patterns, pressure points, and needs/cravings you see (which may be simply a love language like physical affection, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, or receiving gifts).  What can you provide for your child to help walk him/her through a difficult time?

And, as always, I’m writing this totally for me as a reminder to myself.  I will likely forget or draw a blank on how to reach one of my kids in a moment of frustration.  I won’t always remember to try to initiate physical affection with my son when he’s upset.  I won’t always be aware when my oldest hasn’t had any play dates in a couple weeks and therefore needs that time with people.  Until my youngest starts acting out, I may not be self-aware enough to always realize I’ve been preoccupied to the point of not getting much quality time with her.  I’m human and flawed just like you.  But I’ll make the attempt and remember that every morning is a new day and I can pick myself up to try again.  Good intention is a good place to start.

 

Stay Strong Mama

 

Stay strong

There is some major power in another mom who is in the trenches cheering you on as you make your best attempt to train and guide your child.

Today was a rough one, guys.  I mean, really, a lot of days are when you’ve got little ones.  It’s constant disciplining . . . being attentive to their needs, finding the balance between helping and enabling, letting natural consequence/reality kick in instead of stepping in, etc.  It’s just a lot.  (Amen, fellow parents?)  But today was especially difficult.  My 3 year old now joins us in the church service for the first portion so it’s me, my 5 year old, and my 3 year old.  And when the 3 year old hates singing?  Ya, it’s not so much fun.  Hands covering ears, flopping around on chairs, trying to talk to the little girl behind us.  Classic.

“You have your hands full with that one I bet.”

“You’re going to be pretty busy with 4 kids soon!”

“I couldn’t do it.”

Ya, I know.  I can’t either.  Thank you Jesus for somehow stepping in to make me not end up in the psych hospital.  Yet. [Read more…]

We can do hard things

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A friend of mine just went on a plane with a 3 year old and a 1 year old by herself.

Another friend took her 3 little boys on a trip too.

And so, I decided to pull up my bootstraps (that’s the phrase, right?) and do something hard. Ok, so it wasn’t going on a plane (please, I just went for thte first time myself . . . let’s get me some practice first). But I was inspired.

I went to some event 40 minutes from my house, all outside, up and down hills with a stroller, mostly on the grass, with the sun beating down on me. Oh and I was brilliant and wore a black t-shirt. And I forgot money for some things.

BUT I did it with my three kids and we made it. And we had lots of smiles and fun times on the way home. How many meltdowns? Only one minor one from my son who gets a bit cranky in the heat. I’ll take it.

Times like that make me feel like I can do more than I think I can. And it’s because some of you others out there are reminding me that we don’t have to say, “Not in this season of life” (though sometimes that’s reality, I know). We can choose to live our lives rather than wait for “someday” when it may be easier. Will there be times we regret doing what was difficult? Probably. But how many more times are there that we say, “YES I did it?”

Let’s do some hard things and share about them so we can inspire each other.

Jump on the swing

Jump on the Swing

(Photo credit here)

It takes me some time to decide to let go but I finally do it.  I jump onto the playground swing.  It’s an immediate reminder that I’m not as young as I once was . . . my baby-bearing hips push the sides . . . my stomach becomes slightly uneasy as I pump my legs to get higher.

But oh the freedom.

I start to feel strangely like a child again.  Carefree, the wind sweeping my hair with its breath.

I become slightly giddy and start to release a smile as I swing higher.  A bit of fear takes root, that I may go too high and fall.

It’s amazing how those childhood fears that we teach our kids not to have can so easily come to the surface in just a moment’s time.

I’m watching my kids play, my husband swinging next to me.  My youngest is in her stroller smiling as she eyes me going back and forth in her gaze.  The other two are riding their bikes and laughing.

This is family time.  This is relaxation.  This is slow living.

Always caught up with the next thing to do . . . contemplating what I should tackle next so I don’t waste any time.  Yet we chose to go for a walk and just breathe.

Our souls need that, yes?

And so I found myself with my toes trying to graze the leaves of the tree, thinking about absolutely nothing, enjoying the presence of my family, seeing all of us free of distractions, just being us.

It was addictive in the most beautiful way.

Hurting Starts Young

hurting starts young

Age 4.  Not middle school or elementary school or even kindergarten.  But 4.

My oldest, Lily, is like the epitome of an extrovert.  Always has been.  Her first word was “hi” which she would say to every. single. person in the grocery store . . . over and over again.  People have always loved her too and I’m not saying that because she’s my kid and I’m having a “you be jealous” moment.  She just has that playful personality that people are drawn toward.

Oh yes she has her moments, as any highly-sensitive and extroverted combination of a person would.  She drives me nuts sometimes.  But as a playmate, she’s a lot of fun.  So people like her and the feeling is oh so mutual with her. [Read more…]

When we’re offended

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Lately it seems there’s this thread of conversation running through my life where people are offended.  They’re offended because assumptions were made of them.  They’re offended because someone isn’t addressing a concern they feel needs addressed.  They’re offended because they aren’t included.  They’re offended because someone said the wrong thing.

Oh do I get it.  I’ve been on pretty much all sides of the coin with this.  I’ve made assumptions, gotten hurt, said the wrong thing, been upset because people weren’t doing what they should.  Guilty.

I love listening (and do my fair share of talking, of course, as one of my spiritual gifts is exhortation).  I hear people’s stories and totally get their side.  Then I hear the other side and totally get their side.  And then my heart is just sad because I want there to be reconciliation.  It’s totally my personality.  (This explains why I was a peer mediator in middle school.  Why I’m not a counselor right now, I do not know.  So you get to hear my wannabe-counselor through the blog.  Lucky you!)

The other day, I was at this play place with my kids.  A mom and I were talking and she randomly said to me, “How did you lose all your baby weight?”  The thing is, I lost my baby weight and weigh less than I did when I got married . . . and yet I have no answer.  I seriously haven’t a clue.  I didn’t try super hard.  I didn’t go on some crazy diet or exercise for an hour a day.  I was just intentional about trying to eat halfway-healthy and keep moving (like standing here typing instead of sitting, or just doing push-ups on the counter while reading on my computer . . . or running around chasing my kids).  But I was so nervous to answer her because I didn’t want to offend her.  I didn’t want to say that I didn’t know how I did it because then she could feel like she’s been trying so hard to lose it and can’t and then here I am not even really trying and I lost it all.  I would so feel that way if I was on the other side of the coin (and I have been with other things).  I didn’t want to tell her I had some specific plan (which would be a lie anyway) because our bodies are all so different and what works for one may not work for another.  I didn’t want to tell her that I feel like I have the time to exercise even with my 3 kids at home, when she may be struggling to just find time to take a shower.  We all have our own strengths, weaknesses, and struggles.  And hers isn’t mine and there are probably things she has going for her that I simply do not (like she may not struggle to be distracted all day and can actually give her kids undivided attention for more than 5 minutes).

With all the pressure we have as women to look a certain way and be everything to everyone and compare ourselves and try to one-up each other, the last thing I wanted to do was contribute to that.

I was so afraid to offend her that I practically froze and wanted to just change the subject.

But here’s the thing.  I can try my best to respond in a loving way, honestly and openly, while affirming her as a woman and a mother.  But without knowing her story . . . her experiences, her setbacks, her triumphs, her struggles . . . I won’t know what will or will not offend her.  So I try my best to love her like Jesus and trust that as long as my heart is pure and full of His love, I’m doing the best I can and need to surrender the rest to God to handle.  

I know, that seems like such a cop-out.  But the reality is, we can’t make assumptions about others, good or bad.  The real solution, however, is to get to know each other.  Let’s ask to hear one another’s story.  Let’s throw away the assumptions, the judgments, the stereotypes.  Instead, let’s embrace that we are all women trying our best to love and love well in a chaotic, fallen world.

If there’s a time you were offended, may you remember that we each have a story and a heart that likely doesn’t want to hurt others.  Sometimes it’s just our own lense that we’re filtering words and actions through and it gets a little muddy.  That’s why there’s grace.  May we extend grace to each other and ourselves, lock arms, and walk this journey together.

 

The Power of Presence

Shauna Niequist has a way with words.  If you know her, you know this.  If you don’t know her, go get to know her by reading anything she writes (be prepared with a highlighter or something to take notes though; I warned you).  I recently got into listening to podcasts (perfect for my personality–I can listen while doing something else like laundry and they usually have show notes so I don’t have to sit and write down the books/websites/other things they talk about).  I saw that Kat Lee of Inspired to Action, a new favorite of mine, had a chat with Shauna and I pocketed it right away.  Finally had a chance to listen and it was so good.  Let’s try that again: you need to go listen to it.  Like today.

There were lots of quotable phrases, as always the “problem” I have when reading/listening to Shauna.  But one phrase that really stuck out was she said she tries to “be with rather than do for” (talking specifically about her time with her kids but really this can apply to any relationship).  So instead of trying to get all these things accomplished for her kids, she intentionally prioritizes spending time with them first.  Of course some of the “doing” has to happen eventually.  But I think we can so often get caught up in thinking that the other person will just be so appreciative of whatever we did for them that they don’t care that we didn’t sit still and just be present with them.  But doing something for someone isn’t the same as being present with them.  

My love language is serving.  So my husband knows that if he starts crossing off things on the to-do list, we are so good.  But even as much as I love having things done for me, I still want time where my husband is fully present with me–not distracted by his computer, a TV show, or texting.

My kids are the same.  Time and time again I am reminded that when I spend undistracted time with one of my kids, they behave better, are more calm, and our relationship is stronger.  Do they appreciate me cooking them food and doing their laundry and keeping the floors clean?  Maybe a tiny bit.  But what they really want is my presence.  Do I still need to get the other stuff done?  Will I eventually have to add “sign off on school papers” and “help with homework” to the list?  Yep.  But it’s that presence that makes the difference.

Borrowed from: http://www.shaunaniequist.com/present-perfect/

Borrowed from: http://www.shaunaniequist.com/present-perfect/

May I continue to remember that:

doing isn’t the same as being.  

relationship trumps perfection.

presence makes the difference.

 

It Rained Candy

I’ve been a little MIA lately and I apologize.  Lots been going on and then I got sick and am still recovering.  But I had to share with you a quick story from my childhood that is one of few I remember (because, as you may know, my memory is horrid at the ripe old age of 29 but you better believe I’ll be the most spunky gal on the Alzheimer’s unit when I’m 50!).  It was sparked by this book my daughter was reading:

Pinkalicious

(I know, you’re so shocked that MY Lily would love such books as those entitled Pinkalicious.  That Victoria Kann is a genius for knowing there’s quite the readership of 4-6 year olds itching to read about a girl who is as obsessed with girly-ness as much as they are.)

We’re reading about Pinkalicious and how she really wants to see fairies and she and her brother make this beautiful house for them and everything.  But no luck.  Finally, they decide to camp outside and try to stay up all night so they don’t miss the fairies.  Well, of course they fall asleep.  But then they wake up to:

Pinkalicious fairies

. . . a beautiful, color-filled sky, shimmering before their eyes.  They believe that the fairies truly did come (because what other explanation could there be?).

One summer day when I was a kid, I was sitting inside with my brother and neighbor friend eating cheeseburgers for dinner.  Not my favorite meal at that age by any stretch of the imagination (I would later attempt the whole vegan diet . . . need I say more?).  As a way of getting us all to eat our dinner, my mom told us that we would want to eat so we could see what happened outside.

Oh the intrigue.  Oh the anticipation.

So naturally, we ate.

And to our surprise, we walked out into the backyard and saw that the sky was full of pinks and oranges.  It was magnificent, as the beloved Fancy Nancy would say.  As we looked down onto the grass, we saw pieces of candy scattered all throughout the lawn.  It was everywhere!

The only possible explanation?  The sky rained candy.

Magical moment in my childhood.

Even though I don’t have a ton of memories from my childhood for some reason, this one has always stuck with me.  Every time I see a beautiful sunset full of pinks and oranges, I am brought back to the day it rained candy.

My childhood wasn’t perfect (sorry, mom . . . but my kids will say the same if it’s any consolation).  But even through all the difficult times, I still remember that “magical” day.  May you as a parent (or a teacher or caregiver) remember that  kids are resilient.  One beautiful moment can often times triumph in the face of a few messy ones.  Find a way to make some magic for the kid(s) in your life.  And extend some grace to yourself.  Seek to do better next time but embrace the grace.

 

Hearing the song

 

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For those of you who don’t know, my husband works a regular FT job but he also is the Worship Arts Director at our church.  This means that each Sunday morning, I get to experience what it’s like for a single mom to get her kids to church and then try to compose myself enough to focus on Jesus after a likely tough week.  And so, while my other 2 are young enough to stay in the nursery the whole time (not for long though), my oldest has to sit with me in the worship center and listen to a few announcements and worship God in song with me before heading to her class.  It’s not a long time but it’s long enough for this weary mom.

Like yesterday, I’m usually trying to get her to stop asking me a question every 2 seconds.  Wanting to slap myself that I didn’t remember a little notebook so she can write (because as ideal as it’d be for her 4 year old self to sit there without moving or speaking, it just isn’t developmentally going to happen).  Singing, focusing on Jesus and praying for patience at the same time while my daughter asks me to pick her up, then squirm in my arms, then get down, then ask to be picked up again.  Oh and yesterday we added in a nice little attitude because she wanted another family (her favorite family) to sit with us or us with them and I couldn’t find the mom so I told her we had to wait til next week.

I am often reminded on Sundays of this post from my dear fellow blogger, Julie, where she encourages moms to keep bringing their kids to church even though it sometimes feels pointless (and her hubby also leads worship so she gets me).

And then something happened.

“Bless the Lord” came on, which happens to be my daughter’s favorite song ever.  She belts it out on her microphone and guitar at home, leading these little worship sessions.  Ya, it’s kind of as adorable as it sounds.

She looks up in surprise as her daddy starts singing the song.  And she starts singing in her sweet little 4 year old voice.  At one point she closed her eyes and swayed back and forth.  I know she doesn’t fully get the idea of worship but the innocence and pure joy of that moment had me fighting back tears.  I don’t know that it would’ve said as much to me had I not been struggling with her that morning.

Did the rest of my day consistent or rainbows and unicorns?  Absolutely not.  Later, my son was giving me a hard time and we were the center of attention down the church halls.  And nap time was not pretty.  I was beat and wanted to escape.

But God kept reminding me of that sweet moment when my daughter sang her heart out in unison with others young and old, praising Jesus.

Those moments are what keep us going, reminding us that while our circumstances may push us to the edge, they are what mold us and help us to make an impact in others’ lives.  All the times with my daughter sharing in worship in with me.  All the songs being sung in our home throughout the day.  All the verses being memorized and brought up in times when we need a gentle reminder of what the best response would be.  It is all doing something good and I got to see a glimpse of that brought out in a song through the lips of my daughter.

May you hear your song in the middle of your struggles today.

P.S. The verse card in the picture is part of a set that I won.  You can get your own On the Job Meditations for Moms here.

Combat the Yuckies!

Maybe you’re in the middle of cleaning up puke because yet another family member got the stomach bug.

Maybe you just disciplined your kid for the 5th time today for the same. stinking. thing. and the whole “be consistent” thing is draining you.

Maybe you broke up another fight between siblings . . . because that whole “they fight like they’re brothers and sisters” phrase didn’t come from nowhere.

Maybe you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one and you’re struggling to get your mind to be on anything else.

Maybe you feel a disconnect between you and your spouse, just ships passing in the night, and longing for what used to be.

Maybe your house looks like the Cat in the Hat stopped by but he didn’t come back with his cleaning machine and the help of Thing One and Thing Two.

Oh please sweet readers don’t tell me I’m alone in this.  If any of those (I pray not all!) have been your battle cry in the past month, go ahead and give a little “YES” in the comments or on Facebook.  We women need to hear that we aren’t alone, ya?

Here’s the thing (and I’m writing this because I need to preach it to myself): we can’t sit in our circumstances and pity ourselves.  Yes, life is hard.  Sometimes it feels like it’s way harder on some than others.  Sometimes the season is long, much longer than we feel we can withstand.  And yes, as believers, we know to hold onto the hope we have in Jesus, knowing that He works everything out for the good of those who love Him (our definition of good may not be His definition of course), and we can rest knowing that He totally gets us.  And that really is enough for us to get through tough days and seasons in our lives.  But another thing God has given us is joy . . . and laughter.

I was recently chattin’ it up with a woman in our church who I highly respect and wish I could straight up call my mentor (maybe I need to just ask).  Nevertheless, we got an unexpected time together.  We were discussing the not-so-fun parts of motherhood and one thing she told me was, “I figure I might as well have fun while doing it!”  She recommended just having fun as a mom, being silly and laughing.  And she’s so right (most often she is because she’s that fantastic).  She has the funniest stories of anyone I know and all 4 of her kids are Jesus-loving, intelligent, and fabulous just like her.  So I’m taking that advice.

Ya’ll know I love me some joy.  And often a little joy can come in the form of some good ‘ole giggles.  And God is so for us laughing.  (If you need a little proof, here’s a list of verses to back me up.)  I think of Job and all the yuck he went through and yet some words of wisdom/consolation came out from Bildad the Shuhite in Job 8:21 (NLT):

“He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.”

I know I can get stuck in my yuck (don’t you love that?!) and pity myself to the point where I will. not. smile.  Oh how bitter of a place that can be.  Let’s try not to do that, k?  It’s not good for us or anyone else in our lives.  Let’s get ourselves unstuck from our yuck with some old-fashioned medicine: laughter.  I can tell you from experience, when my son is in a bad mood because he’s angry his train broke or Lily doesn’t want to play with him or, well, he’s just sometimes angry just to be angry, most often if someone is silly with him he snaps out of it.  Sometimes it’s a tickle, other times it’s using a funny voice or using the giant elephant stuffed animal to talk with him.  But it works.  And come on, we’re really still all kids at heart deep down in there, right?  Let’s get in touch with our inner child when we’re down in the dumps.

10 Ideas to Create Laughter
  1. Tickle Fest
    Not only is this good for kids but sometimes us adults need it from our loved ones too.  If you need a little help here, we’re big fans of the Tickle Monster Laughter Kit.
  2. Dance Party
    Put on some music and start dancing!  I need not explain this I hope.  And if this isn’t a regular part of life for your family, you’re so missing out. Just sayin’.
  3. Watch Funny Videos
    Go find something funny (or even just heart-warming) on YouTube.  I often have some on my Midweek Espresso posts so click on over to that and scroll through to find some goodies.
  4. Silly Selfies
    This is good to do if you have kids (otherwise it’d be a little awkward by yourself) but if you have a roommate or spouse nearby, grab ’em and do this.  Just take random crazy silly selfies and then look at them.  Oh and share them on the FB page because it’ll help give us a good laugh too.  🙂  Here’s some unfiltered inspiration:
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  5. Catch Me If You Can
    Play the chasing game.  Seriously, it’s tough to think about the not-so-great stuff when you’re running around chasing someone or being chased.  Plus it’s exercise and releases endorphins so there’s a bonus.
  6. Brain Break
    I discovered these when I was working in the schools as Therapeutic Staff Support.  Some of those special ed teachers are brilliant.  But they’re good for us too.  Just go be silly and I won’t judge if you do this by yourself if you don’t have kids.  Who says you need kids to be silly?  Not this woman.  To find them, type in “brain break” on Pinterest or Google.  Sometimes they’re videos and sometimes they just have some fun ideas to give your brain a break.  But here’s one video that won’t fail to make you get silly.

    (Yes it’s terrible and effective all at the same time)

  7. Talk Like a . . . 
    This works great with kids.  Talk in a silly voice or make stuffed animals talk to your kids.  I had an elephant give Colby a piggyback ride after the elephant found Colby who was hiding because he was mad.  And he had a very silly voice.  I felt ridiculous but who cares?  You gotta do what works.
  8. Snowball Fight
    We have this that we got as a gift and it’s simply fantastic.  But you can go outside for real and do it too if the weather permits (you’d get the actual snowball fighting plus cooling off if you need to).
  9. Create a Story
    We love doing this in our house.  I make up a story (usually using the kids’ names) that is totally weird and random.  It may involve animals or princesses or desserts or poop.  It just gets made up as I think it up.  And the kids love it.  You can also have them help.  I’ll sometimes say one sentence and then Lily continues the story and we go back and forth til it’s done.
  10. Seek Gratitude
    This won’t necessarily make you laugh but it’s helpful to get our minds off of the yuck.  Start a list like I did of all the things that you’re thankful for, big and small.  Makes a huge difference.

Have any to add?  What’s your fave when you’re down in the dumps and need to get those yuckies out?  And don’t forget to share your silly selfies. 🙂